Locally-led Development and Localization in Humanitarian Response

Part of working toward just, fair, and prosperous societies requires shifting power to underrepresented and/or marginalized groups who have historically held less power. In international development and humanitarian response systems, this often means localizing—or shifting power—to communities in the Global South that are most affected by development and humanitarian programming. This necessitates decentralizing power and resources from the Global North and empowering local actors to lead on decision-making, agenda setting, program implementation, financial resource management, and more. It also means acknowledging and strengthening the capacity of local actors, supporting local solutions, and working with humility.

Below are some of the recommendations and resources compiled by our community on the topic of locally-led development and localization in humanitarian response.


  1. Recognize the historic inequities in the aid sector between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the Global North and Global South: Organizations must acknowledge and reflect on the unequal power dynamics between organizations from the Global North/South and shift away from the language and mindsets that perpetuate that inequality.
  2. Establish equitable and inclusive local partnerships: Organizations should strive to build holistic relationships with local partners, beyond project-based cooperation or subgrants, and work to strengthen the capacity of these partners.
  3. Strengthen local ownership of projects: Organizations should follow the lead of local and/or national governments, organizations, and communities to determine development and humanitarian priorities and approaches, while also prioritizing the inclusion of diverse local community stakeholder input in the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of projects.
  4. Connect and facilitate: Instead of gatekeeping, organizations should enable the participation of local partners in policy and funding discussions and connect donors with local organizations.
  5. Hold the U.S. government and other donors accountable to their localization commitments: INGOs should review and advance systems that increase accountability for donor reform commitments related to locally-led development, funding local and national actors, and elevating local voices in their work.